An elementary school student from Virginia gave one of the most rousing speeches at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C.
Naomi Wadler, an 11-year-old who organized a walk-out at George Mason Elementary School on March 14, said she was there “to acknowledge and represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper” — girls like Courtlin Arrington, a teenager killed by another student in Alabama on March 7, whom Naomi mentioned in her speech.
“These stories don’t play on the evening news,” Naomi said. “I represent the African American women who are the victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential. It is my privilege to be here today. I am indeed full of privilege. My voice has been heard. I am here to acknowledge their stories, to say they matter, to say their names, because I can and I was asked to be. “
“For far too long these names, these black women, have just been numbers. I’m here to say, ‘Never again for those girls too,’ ” she continued. “I’m here to say that everyone should value those girls too.”
Naomi acknowledged that many critics have said she, and many of the young people taking part in the March for Our Lives, are “too young to have these thoughts” on their own.
“People have said I’m the tool of some nameless adult. It’s not true,” she said. “My friends and I might still be 11 and may still be in elementary school, but we know. We know life isn’t equal for everyone and we know what is right and wrong. We also know that we stand in the shadow of the capitol and we have seven short years until we too have the right to vote.”
She concluded her speech by urging listeners to find their own voices, quoting the words of Toni Morrison: “‘If there’s a book that you want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.’ “
“I urge everyone here and everyone who hears my voice to join me to tell the stories that aren’t told,” she said. “To honor the girls, the women of color, who have been murdered at disproportionate rates in this nation. I need each of you to help me write the narrative in this world and understand so these girls and women are never forgotten.”
Naomi’s speech was met with praise on Twitter, including from Thor Ragnarok actress Tessa Thompson who wrote, “Naomi Wadler is my president.”
March for Our Lives in Washington D.C. was planned by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students Jaclyn Corin, Cameron Kasky, David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez and Alex Wind within days of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at the Parkland, Florida, school, which left 17 of their classmates dead.
According to the rally’s website, the current generation of students has grown up practicing drills and lockdowns at school while repeatedly watching mass shootings play out in other cities and states — a pattern of violence unique to America.
“March For Our Lives is created by, inspired by, and led by students across the country who will no longer risk their lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of mass school shootings that has become all too familiar,” reads the event’s mission statement, in part. “In the tragic wake of the seventeen lives brutally cut short in Florida, politicians are telling us that now is not the time to talk about guns. March For Our Lives believes the time is now.”
While attendees proceeded through the heart of the nation’s capital begging at noon on Saturday, over 800 “sibling marches” in other cities around the world took off too.
“We all know what this is like, and it’s up to you to help us fight it,” Emma Gonzalez said at the rally in D.C.